Buzzwords are a cornerstone of marketing. On paper, they serve a very valuable purpose: they help you break down complex and confusing ideas into exciting, bite-sized bits to get your customers excited. There’s just one problem: most businesses are using them wrong (or too often)!
Somewhere along the way, buzzwords became the things that make our bosses happy. And that would be fine except that many of the buzzwords that are big turn-ons for our bosses are huge turnoffs for our customers. And instead of getting our customers excited, we’re really just driving them away.
It’s not too late to stop using these tired buzzwords, though, or at least start using them more judiciously. Here, we’ve brought you a list of five buzzwords that should have been retired yesterday.
A few years back, every business started labeling itself a “thought leader” and basically never stopped. It’s a line that works well for management, which is why it’s used so often. However, customers understand just how silly it is.
As Syndrome, the supervillain from the first Incredibles movie, once noted, “if everyone is super, then no one will be.” That is, if everyone and their brother says they are a “thought leader,” then no one looks like a leader: they just look like followers of hollow buzzwords. Remember, actions over words: demonstrate leadership through superior content instead of just insisting you are a “thought leader!”
“Disrupt” may as well be the reigning king of empty buzzwords. It began, of course, with startup businesses who were courting investors. Those investors liked to hear that their money was going towards something revolutionary even when it wasn’t, so startups liked to insist they were “disrupting” existing industries.
However, this buzzword is so transparent that customers can see right through it. First, “disrupt” usually means slapping a new label on an old idea (Uber, for instance, took the idea of Gypsy cabs, added an app, and called it a day), so it makes customers suspicious. And at the user level, “disruption” is a bad thing: customers want to hear about the usable and relevant product you have for them instead of hearing that it is “disruptive” in some abstract way.
As long as we’re dispensing some pop culture wisdom, we’ve got another one here straight from Game of Thrones. When the petulant child king Joffrey indignantly yells out that he is the king, his father tells him “any man who says ‘I am king’ is no true king.” And in our world, you can basically replace “king” with “guru.”
The word “guru” is meant to sound mysterious, like customers had to hike up a mountain to find the cave of an ancient mystic. In reality, it just means that the person has plenty of relevant experience. If you want customers to understand that, then you need to simply demonstrate your quality of work and mention your specific history and previous successes. They can then see for themselves you are a “guru,” but if you simply tell them you’re a guru, customers will have a simple, incredulous question: “says who?”
There is nothing more important in the world of marketing than understanding your target audience’s demographics. And these demographics are always in danger of changing, which is why it’s so important to use analytics to monitor changing tastes. Sometimes these new demographics get terrible buzzwords for names, though, which is how we ended up with “digital natives.”
The idea of “digital natives” is that this demographic grew up with the internet and other digital devices. However, the term is flawed for a couple of reasons: first, “digital native” is just another way of saying “Millennial,” and while “Millennial” is also overused, it is at least a precise term. If you tell your customers you work with “digital natives,” they may just think you and the crew of the Enterprise have discovered a new alien species!
One thing that makes the internet so powerful is our ability to share information with each other. For businesses, that means sharing content and tools that their customers will find useful. So far, so good…but some businesses have taken to bragging about their “curated” content. As if they have achieved a level of a special collections curator at the Museum of Modern Art.
Trust us: customers see through this one because it’s basically just doubletalk. First, customers realize that all you’ve really done is something they do every day: copied links on the internet. This hardly makes you or your business stand out. Second, saying you “curated” content makes it sound like you’re bragging that (gasp!) you put some thought into what you brought your customers. That’s basically the bare minimum of providing content, and acting like you need a trophy for doing the bare minimum is likely to drive customers into other businesses’ arms!
We know it will be tough to let some of these buzzwords go. You’ve probably been using a few of them for years now. But take it from us: buzzwords age in dog years thanks to the internet. And that means using last year’s words makes it seem like your company is years behind.
We can’t exactly predict tomorrow’s buzzwords. If we could predict the future, we’d be buying lotto tickets instead of writing this article! But one thing we can guarantee: dropping these buzzwords from your company vocabulary will automatically make your business seem more authentic to prospective customers.
Chris S is a professor of English at a small college in Northwest Florida. He has over ten years of experience in teaching others how to write and uses his knowledge to provide clients with well-researched answers and explanations. He has answered over 1500 questions for Ask.com and written hundreds of articles for other sites ranging from entertainment-centric “Top 10 lists” to detailed breakdowns of how to enter new career fields. From blogs to lists to any custom content, he is here to impress you.